International Women’s Day, celebrated on 8 March throughout the world, honours and recognises the achievements and contributions of all women.

This year, the theme Cracking the code: Innovation for a gender equal future, focuses on the role of innovation in the advancement of gender equality and the empowerment of women.

Innovation is key to addressing challenges by creating new solutions, technologies and approaches that inhibit women’s advancement and wellbeing. Women recognise that despite progress in some areas, there are still many challenges faced in achieving equality. They are still underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematical fields (STEM). This is true also, for leadership in the technology industry and entrepreneurship. To create a better future for women and for society, women need to harness creativity, collaboration, and forward thinking.

International Women’s Day allows for the narration of our own story, reflecting on the past and looking forward in hope to a future that embraces dignity and equality. Women born during WWII grew up in a society where gender roles were clearly defined and rigidly observed. Women faced significant discrimination and there were many barriers to their full participation in society. For them, International Women’s Day serves as a reminder of the progress that has occurred since their youth. It is also a call to action as they strive for greater gender equality.

This day is a time to recall the strength and courage of role models – Mary MacKillop, Caroline Chisholm, Emily Pankhurst, Edith Cowan and those who fought for women’s rights. International Women’s Day gives us an opportunity to focus attention on the ongoing struggles that women face globally such as violence, discrimination, unequal access to education and inclusive opportunities. Raising awareness of these issues and continuing to work towards a world where women are truly equal is key to a future that embraces all.

For one born in the era dominated by the first steps of man on the moon, International Women’s Day acknowledges the contributions of those who have gone before them. Women are reminded to keep up the fight for their rights and continue to push for pay equity and workplace equality.

International Women’s Day sharpens the focus on the need for equality – not only between males and females but equality for all indigenous and non-indigenous, the haves and have nots, the powerful and the oppressed. It is incomprehensible to think that, in a world where opportunities to flourish abound, that half of its population has fewer options available and often are deliberately excluded because of gender. International Women’s Day presents a platform on which to stand in solidarity with others who strive for a just, non-discriminatory world where basic rights are accessible to all and where worth and acceptance are not measured by one’s gender.

For women today, International Women’s Day is a day of celebration, recognition and acknowledgement that despite the progress that has been achieved, there is still much work to be done. This day encourages young women to be inspired by the achievements of women in various fields, such as science, technology, politics and business.

International Women’s Day is a call to arms. A time to move forward and take up the baton, to play a vital role in the promotion and realisation of a better world for themselves and future generations. Women can raise their voices in solidarity, as advocates for change and creators of a just and equitable world for all. For them, International Women’s Day exists to ensure that the world does not accept the status quo. Questions about the state of women’s health, educational inequity, unfair labour distribution, disproportionate balance of power and physical, mental and sexual violence, demand immediate answers.

What is common in these stories is that they share a hope of a world where equality, acceptance and equity are possible – the Kingdom of God realised in the here and now. They speak of a shared dignity for humankind and for the earth. They see strength in standing together for one another – a sisterhood of love. All articulate a respect for those women who have gone before them and they trust in the goodness of God who placed Jesus in the care of Mary his mother. For these generations, International Women’s Day is an opportunity to remind everyone that women should be treated as equals regardless of colour, ability, religion or sexual orientation. While some women may never experience discrimination, harassment, inequality or oppression, as long as there is one woman experiencing these, we all do.

To create this new world, women need to work towards dismantling the systems that perpetuate inequality and discrimination. This will take enormous courage as they challenge traditional gender roles and stereotypes, advocate equal representation for all genders and promote practices that eliminate gender-based violence and harassment. Education is the key to creating a more inclusive and equitable society. Everyone has a role to play, standing together, across generations, to promote equality, and ensure everyone has the opportunity to work towards the fulfilment of God’s plan for them.

Helen Brown and Dot Savage
Dardanup Josephite Companions